03/09/2009 11:00PM

Pimlico reduces length of meet

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The state of Maryland racing grew even darker Tuesday when the Maryland Jockey Club announced that racing will be conducted at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore for only 20 dates this year.

Maryland horsemen and track management agreed last month to maintain a $160,000 per-day purse structure during the Pimlico meet. With a nearly $2 million shortfall in purse account at the current meet at Laurel Park, also owned by the MJC, the reduction of dates from 31 to 20 was deemed necessary. The Maryland Racing Commission has approved the change.

Magna Entertainment Corp., which owns the MJC, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy March 5, but the MJC's president, Tom Chuckas, said in a Tuesday release that the shortening of the Pimlico meet "had nothing to do with" the bankruptcy filing. "We felt it was best to address the situation sooner rather than later in the year," said Chuckas.

The 20-day Pimlico meet will run April 18 to May 23, with no more than four days of racing per week. The 134th Preakness, the highlight of the Maryland season, is set for May 16.

Racing in Maryland was hurt this February when Magna failed to comply with licensing requirements that could have allowed slot machines at Laurel Park.